2016 November 14    Tools   Reviews & Buying Guides

Introduction


The block plane is one of the handiest woodworking tools you can get. 

Let's have some fun with block planes.  (Disclaimer.)



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In This Article


Meet the Block Plane

Some Uses

Newly-Made Planes

Conclusion



Meet the Block Plane


A block plane is a small hand tool with a flat bottom, or "sole".  Out of this protrudes a thin blade, very slightly.  This allows you to remove thin layers from a wooden surface.

The sole keeps the blade from following every little undulation of the wooden surface.  This makes the plane much better than a drawknife for flattening surfaces.  The longer a plane's sole, the larger a surface it can smooth.  So, instead of cutting down into the valleys and making them worse, the plane evens the whole surface, little by little.

One feature of block planes is the relatively shallow blade angle.  I had never paid attention to this, but it's actually important.  If you saw a lot of stuff with cheap junk table saws and other such things (a vast field of experience for me...), the block plane is a good finish tool.  It gets rid of the chatter marks.

Get you a vintage block plane!



Some Uses


Edge beveling:  Run the plane along a corner-edge of the wood, and it will flatten that into a nice 45-degree bevel.  The more you plane it, the more uniform that surface will be.  Of course it will keep removing material, if you keep planing.

Flattening surfaces:  say you've got two wooden blocks that are slightly uneven heights.  You want them both to be the same height.  Just bar-clamp them together (see photo) and plane across the surfaces.   Eventually they will be identical.  I did this to make blocks for a shop press.

Planing off splintery edges on homemade work tables:  You'll do this a lot when using reclaimed wood

Planing down end grain.  A standard block plane has a shallower blade angle than a regular plane.  "Low angle block planes", even more so.

Tool handles!  The block plane is a lot more controllable than a drawknife.  If I were going to make a straight sledgehammer handle, the block plane would see some definite use there.  Actually you might be able to use a block plane on curvy handles, too, because the length of the sole is short.  I haven't tried this yet, but plan to.

In addition to what they can do, hand planes really enhance the whole experience of woodworking.  They do this in a way that so far, no other tool seems to do.  Get a block plane and add it to your toolbox straightaway.  Usable ones are not that much money, although I must say, I really want one of these German ones


Vintage block planes

Table of Contents



Newly-Made Planes


Stanley is making new planes today.  I haven't tried the newer ones yet, but at this kind of price, it's worth a chance. 

Even the better Stanley 12-220 is not that much money.  Probably made in China or India, but as long as you get a good one, it'll be plenty functional.

In USA-made block planes, this handmade one looks highly interesting.  It's a 1 1/4", not super-wide, which would make it good for small projects.

Before there was mass-produced steel and cast iron, all planes were made of wood.  Wooden-soled planes produced some of the finest furniture and cabinets on earth.  At the price, that one could be a super deal.  Quality handmade goods are generally a great bargain today, all the more so when they're made in USA.  I've made enough stuff by hand to know this all too well. 


Vintage block planes

Table of Contents



Conclusion


The block plane makes fine woodworking accessible, and it doesn't usually cost that much.  It can smooth wooden surfaces, plane down edges and end-grain, and allow you to fit stuff together without gaps.  In my opinion, the plane can often yield better results than power tools.

Once you experience woodworking with hand planes, you may begin to see them as more than just useful objects.  Many people enjoy the fine craftsmanship of a plane itself.  This plane is something I've been considering.  Maybe I'll even review it one day. 


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